Your Complete Guide to The French Plural

Grammatically, French is all over the place.

Words have genders, you have to really make an effort to master pronominal verbs and the grammar is chock-full of exceptions.

Whether you’re working to improve your listening or prepare for a Francophone trip, you have to keep that complex French grammar in the back of your mind.

In this post, you’ll learn how to form the French plural as well as some exceptions to the rules, such as irregular forms and words that only exist in the plural.


The Basics: Forming the Plural

Just add “s” to the noun (and change the article)

Generally, the plural of French nouns and adjectives is formed by simply adding an “s” at the end. Just like in English! The definite articles le , la and l’ (the) become les  (the) in the plural. The indefinite articles un  and une (a) become des  (some) in the plural.

Let’s take a look at some examples with French nouns:

French Singular FormFrench Plural Form
Le stylo (the pen) Les stylos  (the pens)
La table (the table) Les tables  (the tables)

Now let’s take a look at some examples in which French nouns are being modified by adjectives:

French Singular FormFrench Plural Form
Le stylo rouge (the red pen) Les stylos rouges  (the red pens)
La table ronde (the round table) Les tables rondes  (the round tables)

One more thing: An “s” must be added to both the noun and the adjective. Agreement: a fact of French life.

How to pronounce that “s”

Spelling, and therefore pronunciation (and therefore reading aloud), can be tricky in French. For the most part, the little “s” we add at the end of nouns and adjectives is not pronounced, as is often the case with final consonants. There are, however, some exceptions in which it is pronounced.

When you see a plural adjective followed by a noun beginning with a vowel, the final “s” of the adjective is pronounced like a “z.”

When you come across a plural noun followed by a plural adjective that begins with a vowel, you can pronounce the noun’s final “s” as though it were a “z.”

When things already end in “s” (or “x”)

I know what you’re thinking. What about words that already end in “s”? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

When you come across a word that ends in “s,” its plural form is the same as its singular form. How’s that for a good deal?

The adjective gros (fat, big, large) is a case in point:

French Singular FormFrench Plural Form
Le gros camion (the big truck) Les gros camions  (the big trucks)

One more thing: The definite article le still becomes les. Also, don’t forget the “s” at the end of camion !

The same deal applies when dealing with a French noun or adjective ending in “x.”

French Singular FormFrench Plural Form
La voix (the voice) Les voix  (the voices)
L'homme jaloux (the jealous man) Les hommes jaloux  (the jealous men)

One more thing: In terms of pronunciation, the “x” and “s” endings function in the same way.

Forming the Plural in Irregular Cases

You probably saw it coming: There are many cases in which just adding an “s” to nouns and adjectives is not enough to form the plural. Sometimes, you’ve got to do a bit more. Luckily, there are some general rules that apply, depending on the endings of the nouns and adjectives.

Nouns and adjectives ending in “-al”

When there’s a masculine singular noun or adjective ending in “-al,” its plural form usually ends in “-aux.”

French Singular FormFrench Plural Form
Un journal (a newspaper) Des journaux  ([some] newspapers)
international  (international) internationaux  (international)
Un journal international (an international newspaper) Des journaux internationaux  (international newspapers)

One more thing: It’s important to note that this only applies to masculine cases. To use the feminine form of an adjective ending in “-al,” the change is regular and an “e” is added in the case of the singular, as in une revue internationale  (an international magazine). For the plural we add an “s” to the noun and the adjective to get des revues internationales  ([some] international magazines).

Exceptions: There are some notable exceptions whereby masculine singular nouns and adjectives ending in “-al” become plural by “regular” means, which is to say, we simply add an “s” to the ending.

*Occasionally, you will see finaux  (final) used, particularly in economic and financial contexts.

One more thing: The masculine noun mal  (ache), when used in mal de tête  (headache) becomes maux de tête  (headaches) in the plural.

Nouns and adjectives ending in “-eau,” “-au” and “-eu”

The plural of singular nouns and adjectives ending in “-eau,” “-au” and “-eu” is most often formed by adding an “x” to the ending.

French Singular FormFrench Plural Form
Le château (the castle, the château) Les châteaux (the castles, the châteaus)
Le plateau (the tray, the platter) Les plateaux  (the trays, the platters)
Le seau (the bucket) Les seaux  (the buckets)
Le jeu (the game) Les jeux  (the games)

Exceptions: There are cases when we simply add an “s” to form the plural.

  • In the case of the adjective bleu  (blue), it becomes bleus  (blue) in the plural.
  • The masculine singular noun pneu (a tire) becomes pneus  (tires) in the plural.

Nouns ending in “-ail”

Nouns that end in “-ail” in the singular generally end in “-ails” in the plural, but there are certain cases in which their endings are “-aux” in the plural.

French Singular FormFrench Plural Form
travail (work, job) travaux (works, jobs)
vitrail  (stained glass window) vitraux  (stained glass windows)
bail  (lease) baux  (leases)

French Words That Only Exist in the Plural

There are several nouns in French that only exist in the plural. They just can’t be alone! Here’s a list of some exclusively plural nouns that you’re bound to come across. It’s important to note that each of these nouns still has a gender that you should know for the sake of agreement.

Les abats giblets
Les alentours neighborhood, surroundings
Les beaux-arts fine arts
Les condoléances condolences
Les coordonnées coordinates, contact information
Les décombres rubble
Les fiançailles engagement
Les frais expenses, charges
Les funérailles funeral
Les gens people
Les honoraires fees
Les mathématiques math
Les menottes handcuffs
Les mœurs morals, customs
Les obsèques funeral
Les ordures trash
Les représailles reprisals, retaliation
Les ténèbres darkness, gloom

French Nouns That Change Meaning in the Plural Form

Some French nouns are just plain fickle! Their meanings change depending on whether they’re singular or plural. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones.

French Singular NounMeaningFrench Plural NounMeaning
Le ciseau a chisel Les ciseaux a pair of scissors
Le comble a height, a peak or the (figurative) last straw Les combles an attic
La douceur softness or sweetness (both literal and figurative) Les douceurs desserts or sweet talk
L'eau water in general (water in a swimming pool, drinking water, etc.) Les eaux the water of bodies of water: river/lake/sea water
L'humanité humanity Les humanités the humanities (the field of academic inquiry)
Le lendemain the next day Les lendemains consequences, or future prospects of something or someone
La mémoire

Le mémoire
the faculty or act of memory

a master's thesis
Les mémoires memoirs
L'ouïe the (sense of) hearing Les ouïes gills (like those of a fish)
La pâte dough (as in pizza dough) Les pâtes pasta
Le statut a status (a social status, for example) Les statuts statutes (which are documented legal enactments)
La toilette the overall process of getting ready (showering, brushing one's teeth, combing one's hair) or personal hygiene Les toilettes the restroom
La vacance a vacancy Les vacances vacation

How to Practice the French Plural

The Everything French Grammar Book: All the Rules You Need to Master Français (Everything: Language and Literature)

  • Read. This may seem like a no-brainer because books, magazines and newspapers are chock-full of plural nouns and adjectives. The key, though, is reading activelyOne thing you can do is, each time you come across the plural form of a word, convert it to the singular form and vice versa. If you’re in the mood to cozy up with a grammar book, I recommend “The Everything French Grammar Book: All the Rules You Need to Master Français” by Laura K. Lawless.
  • Listen to French media. Listening to French media is a great way to see the plural form in use by native speakers. There are so many resources to choose from, such as French podcasts and movies, or you could try using a language learning program like FluentU.

    This language learning program immerses you in the French language with authentic videos like movie trailers and inspiring talks. All of the videos come with interactive subtitles, meaning you’ll not only be able to compare the speech to the subtitles, but also click on them for extra information. Plus, you can use FluentU’s contextual video dictionary to search for specific terms and see the plural form used in context.

    Another great way to up your plural game is by using listening exercises like “spot the error” when watching or listening to French media. You see, it’s not uncommon for native French speakers to “mix up” the plural of irregular French nouns and adjectives. I highly recommend listening to interviews and talk radio shows to hunt for these little slips of the tongue.

  • Transcribe and transform. Dictées (dictations) are another great way to get cozy with French plural nouns and adjectives. A simple yet effective activity is to transcribe a short piece of audio from a podcast and then transform it with the plural. Make sure to pay attention to pronouns and agreement!
  • Quiz yourself.  Flashcards, oldies but goodies, are a great way to get used to plural nouns and adjectives. Check out these flashcards and this quiz for starters.


So get cozy and get to it!

The more time spent, the more mots  (words) in your head.

Before you know it, your plural game will be on point.

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